The Guest (Epic Records)
By: Alex Steininger
"California", the first single off of Phantom Planet's debut, The Guest, is a rarity, a commercial pop treat that finds its way onto radio, and is cool enough for the indie kids to admit digging.
Raindrop piano notes, an organ, and layers of instrumentation, the lush pop song about touring is not a novelty. The band manages to back up the infectious opener with eleven other delectable pop treats. And though none match the hook-laden marketability and hip-ness of "California", they still make for one damn fine listen.
The tender "One Ray Of Sunshine", a melding of acoustic piano and guitars compliment the standard guitar/bass/drum set up the quartet frequents.
"In Our Darkest Hour" picks things up a bit, the band preferring to rock out a bit, downsizing their lush pop conceptions to go for semi-bare bones guitar-rock, still keeping things poppy and melodic.
"Nobody's Fault" grooves with a quirky pop beat, a slight twang, and plenty of rock push to propel it into the power-pop realm of Elvis Costello - though never reaching the genius of Costello, they still sound solid.
"Wishing Well" is another fine example of the pop Phantom Planet creates. A lush, full-blown pop vision, the string arrangements and horns, along with the piano, elevate this song to orchestrated proportions, while the lyrics add the rock 'n' roll pulse that keeps the song from becoming an over-indulgent pop throwaway.
Still a relatively youthful band, Phantom Planet, whose drummer, Jason Schwartzman, has tasted fame as the lead actor in the movie Rushmore, deliver a strikingly beautiful pop album well beyond their years. If they can do this on their debut, and keep the momentum going, they should be a force to reckon with. I'll give this an A-.